Tony had done many fucked up things in the last few years. Ever since he turned eleven, really. It wasn't even his fault- he liked to blame his father actually. They hadn't had a relationship to speak of, it had been more Tony trying everything to be good enough and never being acknowledged. So it had turned into doing everything and anything to get his good old dad's attention.
It hadn't worked. His dad had rarely even cared enough to punish him, but he'd acted out for so long that he didn't know how to stop acting out, even after his parents died in that fucking car crash.
So he didn't. He was known for being eccentric anyways, so why the hell should he stop having fun?
That kind of stuff would influence every child. And that paired with a never ending flood of money hadn't done him much good. He knew that he was different than others. He often had a different concept of right or wrong and because he'd seen his father cheat on his mom monthly, he never really considered it a bad thing. He knew that he didn't want it in his own relationship, if he ever were to have one, but he didn't consider it morally wrong to sleep with women who were in a relationship.
It wasn't his job to worry about their lives, they were all grown people. Responsible for their own future.
So when he had sex with Mary Parker, the wife of one of the scientists working at his company, he didn't think about it. It was fun, it was relaxing, it was a way to let of steam. So they had sex again. And again. And again.
It turned into a full blown, exciting affair that made Pepper frown in that sexy way of hers. That made his stomach churn, but he didn't know why. Or maybe he did, but he didn't want to admit it. So he didn't.
He didn't know all that much about Mary, it wasn't that they really talked. Actually, they spent most of their time not talking. He knew that she had a son in elementary school who spent most of his days with a nanny, but other than that- nothing, really.
He didn't care.
It was a shitty thing to say, and maybe it made him a shitty person- but it didn't make it any less true. He. Did. Not. Care.
She wasn't even the only person he was sleeping with in that time period, he often went home with different women after parties. It was just who he was.
And then Afghanistan happened. He wasn't the same person that he had been before and he didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. He found out that he didn't enjoy sleeping with random women as much as he used to- he still did it, of course, but he did it less and less.
He didn't think about Mary even once until Happy told him that Richard Parker and his wife had died on their way to their holiday destination with Parker's brother and girlfriend.
He wasn't sad, per sé, but he felt saddened that a whole family could be killed in a matter of seconds.
He thought about Mary once or twice before all of his thoughts became consumed by Pepper.
It shocked him, actually, that he never realized (never admitted?) that it was her. That it had always been her. He forgot Mary after that. He forgot most of the women he had slept with.
He was spending his time getting to know Pepper better, falling in love with her, being happy. He was carefree, in a way. It was hard to accept and he wouldn't admit it on Jimmy Kimmel or anything, but Pepper grounded him. It was nice.
And that's why he was slightly pissed waiting in line at Starbucks in Manhattan, a cap pulled into his eyes.
He had just started dating Pepper a little while ago and he hated that she was in California while he was here in New York. He missed New York and was meeting with a few realtors to look at some Appartments. He had wanted Pepper to come along, but business came first, apparently. Weird concept.
"If you don't have any money, you won't get the Muffin. It's that easy."
"But I'm really, really hungry."
Tony snapped his eyes up from his phone and rolled them in the process. The kid infront of him was holding up the line because he didn't have enough money? Jesus Christ. He looked at the child. He was skinny, clothes dirty and worn. He looked like he could really, really use a bath. Tony wrinkled his nose.
"I'll pay for it. Make him a hot chocolate, too, will ya? And I'll take a large coffee, black."
"Do you mean Grande?"
He shot the girl behind the counter an unimpressed look. "You know what the fuck I mean. Please just let me pay." He turned to the kid. "You, sit down in the corner over there. I'll bring you your food."
The kid had recognized him, he saw it in the way his eyes widened, but he practically jumped to the table Tony had pointed at. Who would disobey Iron Man? Not a child.
He was actually pretty sure that some parents threatened their kids with Iron Man the same way they did with Santa Clause. Rhodey had told him his sister did. Rhodey's poor niece would probably be terrified if she ever met Tony.
He followed him a few minutes after. He had no idea why he was sitting down with a child. He didn't even like children. But something in him was telling him that he had to.
"Thanks, Mr Iron Man, Sir." The boy babbled and Tony smiled down at him. He tried really hard to guess how old he was, but he was so skinny and tiny that it could be anything between what? Four and ten? He didn't know. He didn't know shit about kids.
"What's your name?"
The child just looked at him and chewed his muffin with his mouth slightly open. God, he could really use some table manners.
"Okay then. How old are you?"
"I'm turning nine in a few weeks." He didn't look excited about it, and Tony had no idea why. Were kids usually not meant to be super excited about birthdays? He couldn't remember ever being as a kid, but the children in movies usually were and birthdays meant parties, cake and presents.
Or amazing birthday sex if one was an adult.
"Are you looking forward to it?"
"Not really. I'm all alone and the people I'm staying with are Jehova's witnesses and they don't celebrate birthdays, you know?"
Oh. Sounded like he was staying with foster parents, then. Tony's heart ached a little. He didn't know much about the system but he knew that Pepper had stayed with foster parents for a while when her mother had been in a hospital when she was a teenager.
She had hated it. He didn't know if it was because she had missed her mom or if they had treated her poorly. She didn't want to talk about it, ever. So he didn't mention it.
"Are they nice to you?"
The boy looked at him in thought before nodding. "They work a lot but they are much nicer than the last three families I stayed with. They don't hit me or take away food, you know? Sometimes they just forget. I liked the very first one I stayed with after my parents died but I cried a lot, so I don't think they liked me very much."
Tony hummed carefully. What was he supposed to do here? He looked at his watch and hummed again. He had to go look at that overpriced penthouse on fifth avenue right about now, so he pulled out a few bills and shoved them into small hands.
"Here. Buy yourself some food. No take them, I promise you I want you to have it. But you know, you could tell me your name now. Then we could be friends."
He probably sounded like some child molestor creep. Damn it, he was trying to be nice. First and last time he'd ever do that shit.
"Uh. Sure. It's Peter, Sir. Peter Parker."
He smiled and got up, waved goodbye and walked into the unforgiving New Yorker summer air.
He was already sitting in the back of his car, playing on his phone when something connected in his brain.
Peter Parker had been the name of Mary's child. The child she had barely paid attention to. A child that had lost his whole family and everything he knew in the matter of minutes.
He had no idea if the name was a coincidence or not, but he pushed it from his mind, eyes on the streets of New York City, the city he so desperately loved and missed.
They were moving headquarters here, because really, that had been the only way he could talk Pepper into moving. Pepper loved California the same way he loved New York so anything would be a compromise.
But she had never lived here. Had never experienced the movement and atmosphere and the way everything smelled but it smelled so good and it was home.
His thoughts were back on the woman he adored, the city he'd missed and within a matter of minutes, he had forgotten Peter Parker.
He remembered him again, a few hours later after exiting the penthouse. Pepper would have loved it. It was modern, and open, windows from the floors to the ceiling.
But it was weird, he hadn't felt anything when looking around. It hadn't been what he wanted, so now he was meeting another realtor a few blocks down on park avenue.
When he walked, he saw him. The kid. Peter. He was standing in front of a store, peeking through the windows, nose almost pressed against the glass.
"What are you doing?"
Peter jumped, hitting his nose in the process. When he turned to look at Tony with panicked eyes, blood was slowly trickling out.
"Fuck. Shit. Are you okay? I didn't mean to startle you."
Peter brightened instantly when he recognized him, wiping the blood with his sleeve and smiling brightly. "It's okay, I was just looking at that sweater. See, it has Captain America on it!"
"If you want one with Iron Man on it, I'll buy it for you, but I will not stand for any Captain America shit."
"That's a bad word." He whispered but leaned in closer to Tony. "You mean it? You'll buy me a shirt?"
Tony looked down at his watch. He had a few minutes to spare, so he nodded. He ushered the kid inside the store.
"What have I told you, you brat? I don't want you in here if you're not going to buy anything." A man barked and Tony was shocked to see that it was directed at Peter. Peter, who was now frantically moving backwards until he bumped into Tony.
Tony put a hand on his shoulder, flinching at how stiff that shirt felt. God, the kid's clothes really needed to be fucking washed. Or burned.
"Well, he's a child so you should really watch your tone. I'll be paying for whatever he chooses."
Fuck. He was bringing that jackass business. He should really just walk out, drag Peter along and buy him whatever he wants in another store. But he has a tight schedule, so he just purchases a bunch of shirts, socks and sweatpants - none of them with anything related to Captain America printed on them.
When he left the stuttering kid in front of the store to hurry towards the next Open House (well, open for him) he doesn't notice Peter trailing behind him.
He actually forgot Peter halfway to the adress his realtor had send him.
Maybe that made him an asshole, but it was how he was. He had met thousands and thousands of people in the fourty something years he'd been alive. He had learned to push them from his mind- one of the perks of being him.
Besides- he would never see him again. Having seen him twice in one day was already fucking unrealistic.
So, walking into the airconditioned building he didn't spend any of his thoughts to the child that was now sitting down a few feet from the door after he had walked in.
But something was nagging him, his subconciousness yelling at him. He didn't know what for, exactly, but it was.
He couldn't figure out what when he looked at the penthouse. He couldn't think of a reason for the pit of his stomach when he deemed the place perfect and put an offer in right then and there.
He didn't know where the uneasiness came from when he left the building again and he couldn't, for the life of all that was holy, understand why the feeling disappeared when he saw the dirty, tiny child waiting for him on the ground.